How to Really Simplify Your Life

Have you ever wondered what it means to “simplify” or “simplify your home or life”?  Simplifying things gets a lot of press and is a great little segment for morning TV, but simplifying is not always a “simple” as it sounds.  

If you had  “simplify my life” as one of your New Year’s resolutions and you have not figured out how to make that happen yet, don’t get discouraged.  With a little effort, it is within your reach.   Here are some ideas on how to get started.

 Assess your life and space.  The is the most important step towards living a simple life.   It is wise to take an inventory before we start the process.  If you don’t know what’s really going on, it will be hard to make any changes.  Take your time when you assess your life, this is a time for quiet introspection.  Create a categorized list of the areas of your life.  Most people can categorize their lives into; 

  • Personal –  includes anything that affects your own well being like time for exercise, diet, spiritual life, hobbies and leisure time etc.  What is working in your personal life and what is not?  
  • Family –  Are there relationships that are strained or difficult?  Why?
  • Friends – Even if you are married or in a manful relationship, friends are a very important aspect of your life.  We were created to be social.  Whether you are someone who needs many people in your circle or just a few really faithful friends, you need this aspect of your life.  
  • Work  or school – it is sometimes hard to assess work/school because we feel that it is beyond our control, however, this is a time for assessment, not changing.  Even if you can’t control your work/school life, it can be accommodated in other areas of your life to make your days simpler overall.  
  • Extracurricular activities – these include church or community involvement, fun with family and friends or even events you must be involved in for work related reasons. (Rotary Club, networking etc.)
  • Space – this can be your home or work space or both.  Is it easy to keep order in both places?  What specific areas cause the most problems for you.  Does clutter in your life create chaos for you?

Determine what is important to you now and in the future.  Simplifying your life is not really about figuring out how to “get it all done”, but rather how to get the most important things done.  So as you prioritize what you want to simplify, start by making a list of the most important aspects of your life.  Ask yourself;  “what do I want people to say about me at my funeral?”   This will give you perspective for taking action. 

Prioritize your need.  Now that you have taken an honest look at your whole life from 10,000 feet, you can see where you are and where you want to be.  Don’t try to fix everything at once, rather start with areas that can have the most impact in creating positive change.  Sometimes something as simple as going to bed earlier can make an incredible difference in your whole life.

Thoughtfully consider the urgency of the need for change in each area.  For instance; most people believe work and family are a priority, and they are important.  However, if you are setting aside exercise and eating well, so you can work through lunch or get to a soccer game consider how that will affect your long-term health.  Then consider how poor health with affect your work and family in the long run.  

Create a plan.  Your plan of action should be a written, living document.  By that I mean, as you create a plan and implement the changes, assess the plan’s effectiveness.  So let’s say that you determined that you needed to start a regular exercise program.  Excitedly, you determine you will get up 30 minutes earlier each morning and walk, either outside or on a treadmill.  You start your plan and a week into it, you find that when you get up you wake the dog who wakes the kids and you end up being late for work because that 30 minutes actually make things more complex.  Or you start your plan and you realize you are more tired than before you started and instead of feeling better you feel worse.  Go back to the document, and think about how else you could exercise and not mess up your entire life.  Perhaps you are home before everyone else and could easily fit in a quick walk, or maybe you could walk during your favorite TV show.  Don’t abandon the plan altogether, make the plan work for you.  

Simplifying one’s life is not necessarily always about getting rid of tasks and items you don’t need (although that is part of it) it is really more about making life work more efficiently.  Because most of us rarely take the time to examine what or who makes our lives and spaces “out of control”, we never get to the step where we actually do something about it.  As a result, many people lead frazzled, frenzied lives and think they are normal.  Before you start throwing things out and dropping out of your favorite activities, take an assessment of where you are and where you really want to be.  So what do you want people to say about you at your funeral?  

13 Ways to Stay Positive

1. Start the day with gratitude. 

Every morning take some time to think about all the things that are right in your life.  Dwelling on the things that go wrong or could go wrong, will put you in a negative frame of mind right out of the shoot. 

2.  Pray and ask for guidance. 

Only God knows what we will be having on the day ahead of us. People who regularly take time for prayer are found to be much more positive about life in general. 

3. Practice good time management by planning each day. 

Poor planning contributes to poor outcomes and costly mistakes.  When we have a bad day we tend to foster negative thinking.  If we make a daily habit of just letting the day happen, we run the risk of being unprepared and the mistakes that follow.  If each day’s goals are clearly defined, one will enter each day focused and ready to avoid problems, thus creating very positive feelings of accomplishment.

4. Focus on important things in your life. 

Set goals and priorities for all areas of your life.  Create an action plan for how you will accomplish your goals.  This will give you a sense of control and even when things happen that are out of your control, you will be able to make quick course corrections and stay positive about long-term outcomes.  

5.  Recognize that things will go wrong and learn to “roll with the punches”. 

There will always be times when things don’t turn out as planned but in spite of that, you can still stay positive if you don’t get too invested in outcomes.  Learn to do your best and let the outcome take care of itself. 

6. Don’t be afraid to try new things and take on new challenges. 

See learning and changes as opportunities. There’s nothing wrong in changing attitudes and routines as long as they are for the good and improvement of who you are and what you do.  

7. Be realistic when setting your goals. 

Make sure that what you want to accomplish is possible. Hoping for something to happen which would never really materialize in real life will only bring you disappointment. Living with constant disappointment will definitely serve to create negative thinking. 

8. Understand what you are passionate about and take the time to engage your passions. 

Get in touch with the things that really get you excited.  Perhaps it’s a certain charity or sporting activity, or pass time, connect with it and learn how to look to it to fulfill your needs for happiness and joy.   

9. Take care of yourself. 

Commit to learning, work, family, faith, friends, exercise, and relaxation, and create a balanced life in which you feel that you are fulfilled in all areas of your life.  By becoming a balanced individual you create a positive environment for a positive mental attitude to thrive. 

10. Laugh. 

Enjoy life. Have fun. Looking at the brighter side of life starts with entertainment and pleasure. Laughter is the best medicine, so they say. Whether your illness is physical or emotional, a few laughs and giggles can help you throw away heavy baggage such as anxiety, disappointment, or nervousness. 

11. Associate with positive people. 

Hang out with people who see the glass as half full.  It is easy to be brought down and slip into a negative mindset with everyone around you is grumbling and complaining. 

12. Be real. 

People are attracted to those folks who are comfortable with themselves.  Although you don’t have to tell everyone your life’s story, be open, honest and friendly with people.  Honesty has a way of creating very positive feelings. 

13. Let other people off the hook. 

Mistakes are made, bad words exchanged, but the sooner we learn to forgive others for the human frailties, the sooner we are free to live a positive life.  Holding grudges only serve to hurt you.  While others have long moved on, you are still harboring bad feelings against them, that only attracts negative energy.  Learn to forgive quickly and often. 

Life can be very difficult at times, even harsh, but in the midst of it all if we can keep our minds fixed on positive thoughts, we have a better chance of weathering those storms.  Positive people often fair better through illness and loss, so the better we all become at seeing the good things in life, the more equipped we are for handling all the bad things

Procrastination – The Enemy of Achievement

 I know that procrastination is the biggest challenge most people have to achieve success.  It is just so much easier to “do it tomorrow” than to “just do it now”.  Everyone falls victim to this kind of thinking from time-to-time and procrastinating a little doesn’t make anyone a bad person.  But when procrastination, left unchecked can transform your life to chaos pretty quickly.  

Most people don’t procrastinate in every area of their lives, but will often have small areas that seem to give them the most difficulty.  So-much-so that they even deny that they procrastinate at all.  But the first step in overcoming any challenge is to admit there is a real problem.  So if you think that your procrastination is starting to get the best of you, take a good look at the areas of your life where you are more likely to procrastinate.   Examine the areas of your life that seem to get out of control more often.   Ask yourself if it could be because you procrastinate doing something specific in those areas.  For instance, if you tend to always underestimate how much money you have in the bank, ask yourself if it is because you hating balancing the checkbook. You keep putting it off until you really don’t know what is going on with your money.   

Here are some useful indicators that will help you know when you’re procrastinating:

  • Filling your day with low priority tasks from your To Do List.
  • Reading e-mails several times without starting work on them or deciding what you’re going to do with them.
  • Sitting down to start a high-priority task, and almost immediately going off to make a cup of coffee.
  • Leaving an item on your To Do list for a long time, even though you know it’s important.
  • Regularly saying “Yes” to unimportant tasks that others ask you to do, and filling your time with these instead of getting on with the important tasks already on your list.
  • Waiting for the “right mood” or the “right time” to tackle the important task at hand.

So are you a procrastinator?

It is also a good idea to figure out why you procrastinate.  Do you just find certain jobs unpleasant?  Are you so disorganized that you can’t get started with a project?  Or perhaps your perfectionism is keeping you from feeling like you just can’t do the task well enough?  You don’t have time to do a good job so you need to put it off.  All of these issues must be acknowledged so you can move past your procrastination.  

Once you have admitted your procrastination tendencies  it’s time to develop some strategies to help you move past procrastination.  Because procrastination becomes a habit it must be broken.  If it has become deeply ingrained in your behavior you can help yourself with a few strategies to help break the habit.

  • Make up your own rewards. For example, promise yourself time at your favorite activity if you’ve completed a certain task. And make sure you notice how good it feels to finish things!
  • Ask someone else to check up on you. Peer pressure works! This is the principle behind slimming and other self-help groups, and it is widely recognized as a highly effective approach.
  • Identify the unpleasant consequences of NOT doing the task.  Make a list of the “downside” to your procrastinating and read it often.
  • If you procrastinate at work or in your own business figure out how much money you waste by procrastinating.  Are you costing yourself or your boss a lot of money in unproductive time.  
  • Keep a to-do list so that you can’t “conveniently” forget about unpleasant or overwhelming tasks.
  • Prioritize your to-do list so that you can’t try to kid yourself that it would be acceptable to put off doing something on the grounds that it’s unimportant, or that you have many urgent things which ought to be done first when, in reality, you’re procrastinating.
  • Master scheduling so that you know when to start those all-important projects.
  • Set goals that are time sensitive, that way, you’ll have no time for procrastination!
  • Focus on one task at a time.
  • Break the project into a set of smaller, more manageable tasks. 

These are just a few ways to start combating procrastination.  You may not need to employ all of them but start with some ideas that appeal to you and begin to break that unpleasant habit.  


Feeling Overwhelmed?

When I first meet with someone a common problem I often hear is that they feel “overwhelmed” and they don’t know where to start with a project.  Sometimes the smallest of projects can look “bigger and badder” than they really are and this feeling of not knowing where to start can be the beginning of big problems for anyone.  So why does this happen?

First of all, anyone can get stuck.  Even the most highly motivated, driven people can get stuck or derailed from time-to-time.  In most cases, it is not about a project or task itself that causes the overwhelming feeling to shut the door and run.  Many times it can be a sudden shock or loss that triggers reactions that make life, in general, feel overwhelming.  For other people, it can be that the situation in question has been growing for a long time and now it truly is a mountain.  The longer we let a problem or task go undone, the bigger it gets and the bigger it gets the more it feels like we can’t do it.  

When feelings of panic and fear grip you when you look at your big project, realize that there is no perfect way to get it done.  People often feel that there must be a “right” way to organize.  The truth is the right way is the way that works for you.  If you need to shut the door for 3 days and work the problem, that will work.  If you need to work on your problem 15 minutes a day for 2 years, that will eventually work too.  The point is to get started.  Nothing in life happens until you take the first step, however small it may be.  

Communicate Effectively

 We have all met those people who just seem to “connect” with everyone they meet.  They are good at quickly reading people.  They successfully use that skill both professionally and personally.  If you struggle to communicate your desired message, the problem may be your ability to understand how your listener needs to hear what you are trying to communicate.  

The DISC personality profile can help communication by teaching us how others need to receive information.  Many time conflicts arise either personally or professionally because we fail to recognize the predominant personality style of those with whom we are trying to communicate.  If you can recognize others’ communication style by first recognizing their personality, you will communicate more effectively.  Let’s look at close relationships first.

 D Style
D is the Dominant Personality – A D-Style is likely to show their love in a tangible way (problem-solving, providing, giving you experiences or gifts).  A D-Style is likely to want to receive love through supportive gestures and appreciative words.

  • Try to be active together.  They have forward momentum and enjoy activity
  • Take time to set goals togetherThis is something they’ll enjoy doing with you.
  • Help with the details.  They’re big picture people.
  • Try to speak their language when communicatingThey don’t have a lot of patience for the fine details and may avoid overly emotional conversations.
  • Stand up for yourself They’ll respect it.
  • Show appreciation Their time is very important to them, and they feel recognized when you thank them for their actions. Make sure they deserve it of course.  


I personalities are the Intuitive Personality – An I-Style is likely to show their love through verbal and physical expression, making you smile, and having fun, shared experiences.  They likely want to be shown love in a similar way.

  • Avoid harsh or intense tone and body language. Rejection is their biggest fear.
  • Show physical expression and give hugs.  They both give and receive love in this way.
  • Socialize or support their need for socializationTheir desire is to be with people.
  • Help them with organization and time management They suffer in this area and will appreciate your help.
  • Be romantic, expressive or creative with your gestures.  The I-Style can think outside the box.
  • Tell them how you feel.  They are great talkers and are usually in touch with their emotional side.

Is your partner an S-Style?

S is the Steady Personality – An S-Style is likely to show their love through spending quality time with you, listening, being supportive, and through verbal and physical affection.  They likely want to be shown love in a similar way.

  • Spend time with them They often show and want to be shown love through quality time.
  • Don’t make sudden, drastic changes They can adapt, but do not like or easily accept big changes.  Give them time.
  • Take time to listen to them.  They are excellent listeners.  However, they may truly open up if you give them space to talk.
  • Ask them for their opinion They are quite humble and often happy to observe your opinion, but enjoy sharing theirs when non-confrontational space is created.
  • Be thoughtful The S-Style is often thinking of others first.  It means a lot when you make a thoughtful gesture for them in return.
  • Tell them you love them or appreciate them.  They are relational and enjoy  talking one-on-one.  Verbalizing your feelings in a personal setting can go a long way.

Is your partner a C-Style?

C is the Conscientious Personality Style – A C-Style is likely to show their love in a tangible way, helping you with daily tasks, taking care of something for you, or perhaps offering a new system by which to accomplish a task. They will help you with information, examining a problem closer, and being a good listener.  They likely are looking for an appreciation for their efforts and systems, and appreciate being shown love also through supportive tasks and kind gestures.

  • Make an effort to be neat.  They have systems in place and appreciate when you recognize them.
  • Create a safe place for them to express themselves They are non-confrontational but do have an opinion.  They open up to those they trust.
  • Be specific when communicating.  A C-style will respond best to concrete examples and detailed information.  They are problem-solvers and contemplate decisions slowly and carefully.
  • Create routine. Give time for change.  They will adapt but do not like drastic changes.  It’s easier if they can understand the reasoning and logic behind it and are given time to process.
  • Relax together.  They are calm and steady people, who enjoy their peaceful time, and even their space.
  • Be thoughtful.  They will enjoy “doing” things for you and completing tasks.  Return the favor through thoughtful gestures.

(Information obtained from People Keys)

It is equally important to share this information with your partner so that they can understand your communication style to make your relationship a two-way street.  

To become an effective communicator that is able to work with any personality and get the message across to them, it is a good idea to learn more about personalities.  This information can greatly impact your personal and business relationships. Remember communication is not just being able to deliver a message, it is about being able to deliver a message in the way that your listener can internalize.  

Perfectionism vs. Organization

The ongoing myth about those folks who allow their disorganization to get out of control is that they are slothful sluggards who just can’t get their act together.  The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of my clients are perfectionists.  When we think of perfectionism, we think order and neatness, but in reality, perfectionism can often prevent people from getting and staying organized.  So how is this possible?

You see the nature of the perfectionist is to aim for perfection.  If it is to be done, it is to be done perfectly.  So what happens when perfectionists run up against life in the real world.  You know what I am talking about; kids that get up too late to make their beds, spouses that leave dishes lying around in front of the TV, co-workers who share their space, illness, final exams, deadlines, life in general.  Because perfectionists often focus on making things perfect, they soon run out of energy and chaos ensues.  Instead of creating perfect environments, they often opt to sit in the middle of the mess, paralyzed with the inability to make and keep things perfect.  

So what is the answer?  If you are a perfectionist and you see yourself in this description, start to focus on making some progress instead of absolute perfection.  You see the perfectionist will walk into a cluttered family room with an hour concentrate on creating order in the room.  Instead of picking up dishes and dirty laundry, throw away old newspapers, and gathering up kids toys or schoolwork the perfectionist will sit down and arrange the magazines in alphabetical order.   Given enough time the perfectionist would get the room organized, but often their perfectionism eats up too much time on the minor and does not allow them to focus on the minor.  

Becoming organized is not really about perfectionism, it is more about significantly improving your surroundings, using the time you have, with the resources at your disposal.  Although being perfectly organized can be something we strive toward, being organized enough to be able to find and sit down on the couch and enjoy your family is much more important.  Take the pressure off yourself, stop trying to be perfect.  Martha Stewart Living, for most people, is just a magazine.  

Check It Off!

For those of you who have a “to do list” that you check off each day, you already know how good it feels to put a check mark beside a completed item.  It feels great looking at a completed checklist at the end of the day.  It may, however, surprise you to know that even those check list people often have routine things that they forget to do each day.  Things like making the bed, putting the dishes in the dishwasher, washing dishes, feeding the dog, (unless you own a dachshund, they will never let you forget), sort the mail and so many other little jobs around the house or office.

If you already create those “to do” lists and manage to get everything done in a day but are frustrated with your lack of effectiveness in other areas why not create a “routine task” to do list.  By that I mean, in those areas that you tend to forget, or run out of time for, create a task list that can be placed in the area.  For instance, in your kitchen, if you regularly forget to put dishes in the dishwasher, sort the mail, clean a sink or take out the trash, create a task list that remains in that space and then check the items off each day.  Keep them very simple and divide them into daily, weekly, monthly and annual.  If you must physically check them off, you will want to create them to be used over and over, or they can simply be posted somewhere in the area as a reminder of what needs to be done.  

Another option is to create a master list, and incorporate these items into your daily schedule, just like you schedule work for your job or business.  However you create the list, it will definitely help you get on top of those annoying little routine tasks that often get omitted.  More importantly, it will help you feel better about yourself, and head off the inevitable clutter that will need to be dealt with at a future date.  

A Balanced Life May Mean Learning to Say “NO” Creatively

Sometimes getting organized and leading a balanced life is a lot easier said than done.  All of us have both personal and professional obligations that need to be done every day.   These obligations can get in the way of staying organized and balanced.  Something that can get in the way of leading that elusive balanced life is the inability to simply say “no”.  

I realize that we can’t say “no” to the boss, at least not too often.  But there are times in our lives that we say “yes” when we want to say “no”..   We often add to overloaded schedules jobs we just don’t have time for.  Things like chairing the PTA, coaching soccer, babysitting, pet sitting, and so on.  All of these things are worthy and useful jobs that should bring enjoyment and satisfaction.  But sadly, for many people,  just piles on more stress.  In turn, this creates an out of balance lifestyle. 

So what is the answer?  Learning to know when you are at your limit is the first step to heading off this kind of stress and imbalance.  For some that is easy, and the word “no”, just rolls off their lips.  But for many, they are well beyond the limit before they realize it and don’t know how to paddle back sanity and balance.  To learn your limits, take some time to assess what is already on your plate and really think about exactly when you started to feel out of control and out of balance.  Can you handle daily responsibilities of work and home life?  How many extra activities start to cause you to have to let things at home slide, or cut corners at work to get everything done.  

Once you determine your limits, begin to divest yourself of the extra activities that make your life so chaotic.  Be patient because sometimes it is a lot easier to take on duties than to get out of them.  If work is the problem, it may be more difficult, so your personal life may have to simplify extensively to be able to manage the stress and imbalance.  

Life balance is often discussed but rarely achieved completely.  But life is too short to live doing things just because you can’t say ‘no’.  A good way to combat this situation is to use the “good, better, best” test before we say ‘yes’  That is, measure every activity against your current goals.  Then ask, “is this activity a good, better or best activity to move me toward my goal accomplishment?” When you realize that, even though an opportunity will fit into your schedule it may not get you closer to your goals, declining an opportunity is much easier.

Since we all know there is an ‘App” for everything, I did find an application on iTunes that will help you say “no” a little easier.  I recommend this “tongue in cheek”, but I was interested to find that enough people have a problem saying no, that someone felt the need to create an app.  If you are interested it is called iNo and is probably perfect for you.  The app has over 1000 nice and not-so-nice ways to say “no” to just about anyone you can think of, even the boss.  For a mere 99 cents, you could be on the road to freedom!  

The Visual Learner…Color is Your Friend

Are you one of those people who has to see things in action to really understand how they work?  Are you imaginative and creative? Do you have many competing ideas and projects going on in your head at once? Do you find it difficult to stay organized because you find it hard to stay on one task for any length of time?  Is your workspace filled with many projects at various stages of completion?

You likely have a “visual work style” and you often ‘see’ items that stimulate new ideas and possibilities even in the middle of a completely unrelated project.  Thoughts and ideas constantly bombard your mind.  Solutions to problems or challenges come to you at random times during the day and night.  You are easily stimulated and can become frustrated and overwhelmed over time because you can get buried in clutter from your creative ideas.  

Your style does pose more challenges to getting and staying organizing, especially if you hire someone to just “get you organized”.  It is important for you to work with someone who is willing to work with you and coach you with ideas on how to manage life from day-to-day.   

One of the first things all visual people should develop is a color-coded system for staying organized.  You can start this by determining the types of categories or groupings that you work with throughout your day.  If staying on top of projects is a problem, perhaps you create a red folder for tasks due immediately, a green folder for items of less urgency and yellow for items that are good ideas, but not urgent needs.  Whatever you need to organize, if you have a visual work style, you are going to associate colors much easier than words. 

Since ideas often come to you randomly, it is a good idea to always have some way to record ideas to be accessed later.  If you have a smartphone you can just use the recording feature and record them for future reference.  That way you can reduce the distraction of those random thoughts.  

I also recommend that visuals never file their work where they can’t see it.  Utilize desktop filing systems and open filing cabinets to ensure that you don’t “lose” things.  

I have never met a visual who does not wake up in the middle of the night with solutions to problems or ideas for new projects.  To ensure that you properly record these “eureka moments”, keep a pen and paper on your nightstand and write them down before going back to sleep.